British Files: Israel Sold Arms to Argentina During 1982 Falklands War

Foreign Office documents indicate Argentine air force used Skyhawk jets from Israel to bomb British warships.

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British fighter jets and helicopters aboard the HMS Hermes as it headed south for the Falklands, April 1982
British fighter jets and helicopters aboard the HMS Hermes as it headed south for the Falklands, April 1982. Jets sold by Israel to Argentina were reportedly used during the war.Credit: The Associated Press
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

Declassified documents from the British Foreign Office claim that Israel sold arms to Argentina at the height of the Falklands War in 1982, according to a report in British daily The Telegraph.

Israel armed the Argentine junta both prior to and during the war, the files allege. According to the Telegraph report on Wednesday, Israel sold Skyhawk jets to the Argentine air force prior to the war, which lasted for 10 weeks in April-June 1982. It used them to bomb British warships in incidents that killed dozens of British soldiers and naval personnel.

The report also indicates that Israel sold the Argentine air force 39 Nesher fighter jets made by Israel Aircraft Industries that had been decommissioned by the Israel Air Force in the late 1970s. These jets were also used during the Falklands War.

According to the report, C.W. Long — then head of the Near East and North Africa Department at the Foreign Office — stated in a memorandum in 1984: “Israel was one of the few countries to supply Argentina with arms during the Falklands conflict and has continued to do so.”

Israel initially denied involvement in arming the Argentine military, but later admitted complicity, according to the declassified documents. It claimed that the deals with Argentina were vital to its arms industry, and that the British armed Arab countries.

There have been numerous reports in recent years about Israeli arms going to Argentina and serving its forces during the Falklands War. According to the book “Operation Israel: The Rearming of Argentina During the Dictatorship,” by Argentine journalist Hernán Dobry, the arms were intended to aid Argentina in its war against Britain. The book asserted that Israel’s prime minister at the time, Menachem Begin, helped the Argentinians out of hatred for the British.

During testimony by the U.S. under secretary of state to Congress in 1981, it was reported that since the beginning of the American embargo of Argentina three years earlier, Argentina had bought arms from Israel and African countries worth some $2 billion. Other estimates valued Israel’s military exports to the junta at some $700 million.

In 2012, Argentine pilots and military figures told local journalists that they had secretly visited Israel in 1982, meeting with military industry officials and returning to Argentina with lots of arms, including air-to-air missiles, anti-tank missiles, artillery and more.

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